At the start of 2010, informitv offered 20 practical predictions for the next 10 years in television, anticipating that new networks would subvert and transcend the broadcast model. Some readers suggested these forecasts were not ambitious enough. Others suggested they would not all be achieved within a decade. Looking back after ten years, with 20/20 hindsight, how did we do?
In 2010, Netflix was only offering a streaming service in the United States and the Apple iPad had yet to launch. Following the initial success of its iPlayer, with 4 million online views a week, the BBC was preparing for something called Project Canvas, which was to become YouView, while the open HbbTV hybrid broadcast broadband television specification was already gaining traction.
The network television revolution that informitv had predicted five years previously had yet to be fulfilled but the first signs of growth were there. 10 years later, the revolution is still in progress. In many respects, the changes we anticipated have been a long time coming.
So, here are our original 20 predictions from January 2010, with an update on progress so far.
1. Television will be less dominant. Free to air television networks will become a secondary medium, like radio, increasingly reliant upon relaying live events that can attract a national audience, as other modes of digital distribution displace the broadcast provision of pre-recorded programming.
Viewership of free to air television is in decline but can still attract mass audiences for events and high-profile programmes. In 2009, the highest rating show in the United Kingdom was Britain’s Got Talent, with an audience of 18.29 million for ITV. In 2019 the final could only average 9.73 million, while the New Year’s Eve Fireworks on BBC 1 at the start of 2019 attracted 12.39 million. Online services have supplemented but not entirely substituted broadcast distribution for recorded programming.
2. Fewer television channels will survive. Mass media ownership will continue to consolidate and the number of broadcast television channels will decline as the interruptive advertising model will fail to support them all, but the range of brands using video communications for marketing will increase exponentially.
The number of broadcast channels has actually increased but their individual influence has been diluted and has declined. There were 3,600 television channels based in the European Union in 2009. At the end of 2018 there were approaching 4,500, according to the European Audiovisual Observatory. Brands are increasingly using online video to reach viewers. The advertising research organisation WARC reports that internet formats will account for over half of global advertising investment for the first time in 2020.
3. Global communities will dominate media. Global social networking applications will continue to proliferate into the video realm, providing communal interaction and real-time ratings and recommendations, creating shared experiences around asynchronous viewing across geographic boundaries.
Facebook has achieved a massive global reach, with nearly 2.5 billion active users a month, and video is a major element of its attraction to users. With 2 billion users a month, YouTube has created video stars. The most viewed videos are music tracks, led by ‘Despacito’, which has been watched over 6.5 billion times.
4. Audiovisual communication will become personal. Audio and video will be used as routinely for personal communication as text or images, requiring audiovisual production to become part of the school curriculum and a standard skill in the workplace.
The means of media production have been democratised. With 3.3 billion smartphones worldwide, billions of people now carry highly capable devices that allow them to share their experiences with high-quality audio and video. 24 hours of video were were uploaded to YouTube every minute in 2010. In 2019 that had increased to 500 hours a minute. The technology may be more accessible but skill and experience are still required to use it effectively.
5. Most viewing will be on personal screens. Tablets and touch screens will proliferate and more audio and video will be consumed on personal devices than on the traditional shared living room display, which will become more multifunctional and less defined by the television viewing experience.
Children and young adults spent much more time online than they did watching the television, which is used for viewing much more than conventional channels. However, television viewing remains significant. Ofcom reported that individuals in the United Kingdom spent an average of 4 hours 54 minutes a day viewing audiovisual media in 2018, of which 56% was live television and another 12% was previously broadcast programming.
6. Mobile video will be delivered over data networks. Most mobile television and video services will be delivered over data networks rather than using extensions of current digital broadcasting standards.
Mobile video is largely delivered over the top of open data networks rather than using conventional broadcast technologies. 63% of data on mobile networks in 2019 was video, as reported by the Ericsson Mobility Report, compared to 24% in 2011, but the volume of video data has increased by over 14,000%. Multicast delivery has been in mobile standards since the introduction of 4G networks but has not been widely adopted.
7. Displays will be network connected. Hybrid broadcast and broadband devices and displays will become mainstream and most video screens will have some form of data connection, while the resolution of consumer electronics products will typically exceed that of conventional broadcast networks.
Most handheld screens are networked and televisions are increasingly connected to a data network. Ofcom reports that 53% of households in the United Kingdom have a television that is in some way connected to the internet. The majority of televisions on sale have display capabilities that exceed most broadcast channels.
8. Displays will become resolution independent. Powerful media processors will provide real-time transcoding between different formats and resolutions on the fly, decoupling displays from specific broadcast standards.
Ultra-high-definition screens that upscale high-definition and standard definition broadcasts now account for the majority of television sales. Informa Tech reported that ultra-high-definition screens made up more than half of all television shipments globally from the end of 2018, and over 60% of those in Western Europe, North America, and China.
9. High definition will be standard. High definition will become the new standard and progressive scanning will eventually replace interlaced display and its attendant artifacts, while frame rates will double, offering smoother motion.
High definition is the norm in many markets but standard definition is still in use by broadcasters. Most broadcast channels still interlace alternate lines but progressive scanning is increasingly employed. Higher frame rates have yet to be adopted by most broadcasters.
10. Fidelity of reproduction will improve. Ultra-high-definition formats will be commercially available and will be routinely used for acquisition and post production, providing print resolution reproduction, while increased bit depths will offer improved dynamic range and colour representation, resulting in much richer images.
4K ultra-high-definition is a market reality, offering improved picture quality, but many broadcasters have been slow to adopt improvements in fidelity. High dynamic range with increased bit depth is available in some cases. Online services are leading adoption. 8K now represents the state of the art, with a broadcast service available in Japan.
11. 3D will be a limited success. Stereoscopic 3D will be popular for movies and major live events but will remain a niche product while it requires viewers to wear special glasses, although stereo eyewear will become increasingly fashionable and will allow immersive gaming and photorealistic virtual reality and role-playing experiences.
3D has been largely dismissed by video viewers and virtual reality has yet to match the hyperbole. 3D survives as a theatrical experience. 3D still accounted for 16% of global box office takings of $41.1 billion in 2018, down from 23% in 2016, as reported by the Motion Picture Association of America. With 97% of cinema screens now digitally projected, 58% of them are 3D capable.
12. Network distribution will become more efficient. Multicast distribution will allow live programming to be delivered cost-effectively to millions of users simultaneously over fixed and wireless data networks on a global basis.
Online video can comfortably scale to millions of simultaneous viewers but multicast is still not widely used outside managed networks. The Hotstar streaming service in India, ultimately owned by Disney, delivered live cricket to 18.6 million concurrent users during the IPL 2019 final, as reported by Akamai, reaching 300 million users during the tournament.
13. Fibre-optic networks will reach the home. Cable television operators will migrate to internet protocols and extend their fibre-optic networks to the premises, forcing other telecommunications companies to compete, offering access to a virtually unlimited range of audiovisual media, delivered in real-time or faster, without delays or interruptions.
Although fibre to the premises is prevalent in some regions it is the exception rather than the norm in many markets. Ofcom reports that full-fibre networks were available to 10% of premises in the United Kingdom at the end of 2019, although adoption is very much lower, with just over half a million connections.
14. Broadband will become a utility. Broadband data access will become an essential utility, like water, gas and electricity, providing connections of 1Gbps or more in urban areas, charged by terabytes transferred, at peak and off peak rates, with no further restrictions on usage.
High-speed internet access is regarded as a necessity by many. Most providers charge for the utility of access at up to a given data rate with a monthly limit, rather than metering by the megabyte. Ofcom reports that fixed broadband connections in the United Kingdom download an average of 240 gigabytes of data a month.
15. Home networks will become ubiquitous. Wired and wireless data networks will replace dedicated wiring within the home for audio visual distribution, communication and automation, while universal low voltage connections will reduce the need for multiple power adapters.
WiFi has become pervasive within the home, reducing the need for dedicated audiovisual connections. Voice recognition has emerged as a driver for home automation. USB has become broadly adopted, for power and charging as much as connectivity.
16. Massive data storage will be cheap as chips. Solid state devices will largely replace spinning disks and massive local storage will provide instant access to thousands of hours of audiovisual information and entertainment, allowing an entire collection of movies and videos to be stored on a portable device.
The cost of digital storage continues to fall. Solid state drives are slowly replacing spinning disks but remain more expensive per gigabyte of storage.
17. Physical media distribution will decline. Streams and downloads will displace but not entirely replace the distribution of physical discs for audio and video, while licensed media will be ubiquitously accessible from network storage in the cloud.
Streaming has substituted much usage and ownership of physical discs but not entirely replaced them. Physical formats now account for less than 25% of global consumer spending on media, as reported by the MPAA, based on data from the Digital Entertainment Group and Informa Tech. From 2014 to 2018, spending on media released digital increased by 140%, while spending on discs has declined by 48%.
18. Global releases will reduce piracy. Major movies and premium programmes will be distributed simultaneously worldwide to reduce piracy and regionally localised global events will be funded by sponsorship and subscription.
Netflix has pioneered simultaneous global theatrical and online releases of original productions for which it exclusively holds the rights. The traditional models of funding and distribution make that much more difficult for established media players, which have used complex rights windowing systems to maximise revenue.
19. Copyright protection will be invisible. Digital rights management restrictions will be transparent to legitimate users who will be able to access media freely on any device within the terms of their licence, while forensic fingerprinting and legal measures will be used to combat unauthorised distribution.
Copyright protection systems have become more transparent, supported by robust encryption and digital rights management in software. While discouraging casual copying and digital duplication, most systems can be circumvented and piracy remains a problem. Invisible watermarks are increasingly employed to track illicit distribution.
20. People will pay to avoid adverts. While increasingly sophisticated targeting of commercial messages will make them more relevant and more acceptable, people will pay a premium for subscription services that are uninterrupted by intrusive adverts.
Addressable advertising is showing potential and can command a premium, particularly online, with more limited opportunities for targeting currently available on broadcast channels. The success of online video subscription services is partly attributable to the lack of interruptive advertising.
In summary, most of these predictions have turned out to be at least partially correct. Television and video distribution is being transformed but change has been relatively gradual. Although it is fashionable to dismiss traditional television, the majority of viewing is still delivered by conventional channels.
However, the pace of change is accelerating and many of the emerging trends will become more apparent over the next decade.
Offering an informed view of the future of television and video, informitv provides independent advice and consultancy services to media and communications companies, based on extensive experience in the field and a deep understanding of technology trends and consumer adoption.